Telangana: Expert warns of ‘tsunami’ in pollen allergies due to Navy’s radar project

Hyderabad Desk

Hyderabad: Fears of a massive spike in pollen allergies in Telangana have emerged due to the upcoming Indian Navy’s Very Low Frequency (VLF) Radar Communication System project in the Damangundam forest of the Ananthagiri Hills, Vikarabad district.

Going with the reports of approximately 12 lakh trees being cut to pave the way for the project, Dr Vyakaranam Nageshwar, noted pulmonologist, allergist, immunologist, and medical journalist stated that Telangana is “teetering on the edge of a health crisis” due to the move.

He warned that if such massive deforestation is not avoided, “it may lead to disastrous consequences as this phenomenon, coupled with rising temperatures, sets the stage for a potential pollen tsunami” that can be compounded by escalating temperatures such as the one we have seen in Brazil-Rio de Janeiro that hit a heat index of 62.3 degrees Celsius.”

“Trees play a crucial role in pollen production and distribution, and the mass felling of trees can drastically alter the local ecosystem, leading to an increase in pollen concentration,” he said while urging policymakers to consider the grave implications of the tree felling in Vikarabad and asked them to prioritize the protection of the environment and the health of the citizens.

“This widespread deforestation project not only threatens to disrupt the local ecosystem but also imperils the livelihoods of 60,000 people in 20 villages who rely on the forest for sustenance,” he added.

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‘Risk of allergic reactions, ailments in Hyderabad citizens’

The allergist further said that pollen particles may traverse vast distances through the wind, given the absence of natural tree barriers, heightening the risk of allergic reactions and respiratory ailments among the nearby populace in Hyderabad city, situated a mere 70 kilometres away.

“This unprecedented temperature surge, compounded by deforestation in the Damagundam forest of the Ananthagiri Hills, poses a severe threat to public health, potentially precipitating a surge in hospitalizations and emergency admissions,” he added.

Surge in pollen production

Nageshwar stated that the destruction of the forest ecosystem will have “far-reaching consequences, contributing to climate change and exacerbating global warming.”

“The prolonged pollination periods resulting from warmer climates and increased carbon dioxide levels will further exacerbate pollen allergies, affecting not only allergic individuals but also those previously unaffected,” he added.

He said that the rising temperatures are often accompanied by elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Plants use CO2 during photosynthesis, and higher CO2 concentrations can enhance plant growth and pollen production.

Politics over the project

The state government transferred 1,174 hectares (2901 acres) of forest land in Dummugudem forest, near Puduru, Vikarabad district to the Navy to set up the radar station.

An MoU for the centre was signed between officials of the Eastern Naval Command and state government forest officials in the presence of chief minister A Revanth Reddy at the Secretariat on January 25.

The project is set to be ready by 2027.

Addressing a BRS meeting in Parigi, Vikarabad on Monday, January 29, former minister K T Rama Rao (KTR) said that the party is opposed to the radar station project.

“We didn’t let the radar station come up in the last 10 years because it would affect wildlife due to radiation. The approval would affect Puduru, Parigi, and the Vikarabad district. As soon as coming to power, the Congress government signed the file in haste,” he said.

He also alleged that 12 lakh trees would be cut to pave the way to the radar station. “Where did all the environmentalists go?….. The Musa and Esa rivers emerge from here. If lakhs of trees are cut, will there be rainfall?” he asked.

KTR demanded that a survey should be conducted to understand the opinion of the Vikarabad district populace on the issue.

Congress govt denies deforestation

Rejecting KTR’s claims of environmental distress due to the project, state minister for forests Konda Surekha said that the official G.O. was issued after the government conducted due diligence.

“The previous BRS government has accorded permission for the project. We have just moved the file that was ready for approval,” she remarked.

She also denied that lakhs of trees would be cut for the project.

Surekha cited orders of the state High Court on a petition that alleged the same. “The High Court rejected the claims of tree cutting made in that petition,” she said.

The Damagudem Forest Protection Joint Action Committee had filed a petition in court seeking to cancel this project.

The court gave the nod to the project and asked the state government to take all precautions by the conditions decided by the state government.

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